8 tips to keep employees engaged in a hybrid world

Employee engagement. Two little words that can make or break a business! This year Gallup revealed that disengaged employees racked up a jaw-dropping $7.8 trillion in lost revenue in 2021. While keeping employees motivated at work has long been a priority, recent years have added extra challenges for HR professionals and community teams.  

Since the pandemic, 63% of high-growth businesses have switched to a remote or hybrid working model. But what has this sudden shift done for employee engagement? When the pandemic sent employees to work from home, engagement dropped to a staggering low, with just 20% of workers feeling connected to their companies. We all know what followed. The great resignation left businesses reeling as it became clear that if not handled correctly, shifting work environments away from the traditional office setup can lead to a crash in employee satisfaction.

Engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers and 87% less likely to leave their organization. 

With companies facing more competition to attract and keep talented hybrid candidates, it has perhaps never been more prudent to invest in experiences to keep employees engaged and excited in their work. So, what techniques can companies use to connect with their staff while working remotely?  

1. Ensure everyone is on the same page 

Statistics show that 86% of employees blame poor communication as the root cause of ineffective collaboration and workplace failures. No one wants to stay on a team that is constantly missing the mark, so ensuring each member knows their responsibilities is key to keeping ambitious employees engaged. 

With hybrid work, It is even easier for wires to get crossed and for colleagues to misinterpret their role in getting a project over the line. If possible, meet in person to establish clear expectations at the start of a new project and ensure this is outlined clearly in a document accessible to everyone. Apps like Asana can help you build online Gant charts that your team can follow and modify as they progress. 

If meeting IRL isn’t feasible, set aside ample time to go through the process online. Combat Zoom fatigue and keep employees engaged by factoring in five-minute breaks every hour to stretch and rest their eyes. Infuse the occasion with team spirit by sending employees snacks or a bottle of wine to toast a successful session at the end!

Whether you are meeting virtually or face-to-face, the key is to create a plan that all participants agree to and can check back in with regularly. When working out your schedule and setting performance metrics, ensure an environment where employees feel free to voice concerns. 

2. Appeal to ambitious employees 

As we adjusted to COVID, many companies were surprised to learn that employees were stressed out at the prospect of not seeing their bosses. A common complaint amongst younger team members, workers were concerned that less face time with management would see them overlooked for promotion. 

As offices slowly reopened, many businesses struggled to safely distribute workers as employees jostled to nab a hot desk on the same day as team leaders. While the hybrid working model offers companies the opportunity to attract top talent from further afield, these observations prove that enterprising employees still need one-on-one time with management to maintain high levels of engagement. 

Studies have shown that employees promoted within the business in their first three years are 70% less likely to look elsewhere. So how can companies offer in-house career development to their remote employees? Providing monthly virtual catch-ups with managers is a fantastic starting point, but driven team members will still miss the networking opportunities that arise from being in the office. 

One tactic that could help you stand out from competitors is for community teams to pair up employees with managers from across the business. Encourage short coffee meetings where colleagues can get to know each other briefly in person or online. 

Alternatively, ask department heads to host a webinar about their team’s role in the business and any opportunities for career-developing collaboration. Human resources can also create initiatives for coworkers to learn new skills or establish an annual mentoring scheme where employees can apply to pick the brains of co-founders or key decision-makers once a month. 

team chatting

3. Create space for socializing 

As many professionals will attest, some of our greatest friendships can begin in the office, and getting on with our coworkers ultimately benefits a business’s bottom line. Communication becomes easier, and employees are likelier to stay when they feel part of the team. 

During the pandemic, 73% of surveyed workers said they missed the opportunity to socialize with their colleagues day-to-day! 

On top of the more formal project management meetings, managers can create space for more casual communication. Set up a coffee morning where coworkers can catch up before the day begins. Alternatively, have a monthly lunch over Zoom where colleagues can socialize over a sandwich and get to know each other in a more laid-back setting. 

Slack can also be a fantastic tool for dispersed teams. Whether it’s sharing Halloween memes or asking for Netflix recommendations, having a channel for informal communication can prevent clogging up project-focused spaces while providing room for fun.   

Variety is the spice of life, so on top of bonding within departments, community teams can encourage wider interaction with company-wide online events. Whether it’s a quirky quiz or a virtual happy hour, there are many ways you can gather employees online for something social.  

4. Acknowledge individual achievement  

As Maslow famously pointed out in his hierarchy of needs, humans only thrive when they have a healthy sense of esteem and belonging. In the workplace, when employees don’t receive recognition for their efforts, they can be left feeling disconnected from company goals. Without this shared purpose, the days drag, and soon they will seek more meaningful employment elsewhere. 

The power of employee recognition cannot be understated. In surveys, 63% of workers stated they would not search for alternative employment if their achievements were noted. Around the office, there are plentiful opportunities to acknowledge individuals’ hard work on a project. But with remote work, team members can easily be overlooked, especially if they are more introverted and less forthcoming in sharing their accomplishments.   

Set up a monthly coffee break on Zoom to check in and celebrate small wins and ongoing teamwork. Peer recognition is equally important, so as well as asking for opinions on their own progress, ask the group to nominate a team hero who has pushed the project forward in the previous weeks. 

people talking in the office

5. Come together to celebrate core values

As demographics shift to younger generations, the nature of the workplace is changing. Reports show that Gen Z and Millenial workers are motivated by different factors than their older counterparts. Now that they make up 46% of the workforce, companies who ignore their preferences will start to feel the pinch. 

Gen Z and Millenial candidates are attracted to companies that care, but empty platitudes will not suffice. If you plan on building your company culture on a set of values, you better be prepared to walk the walk! Setting up a day for team members to volunteer at an aligned NGO can show you practice what you preach and reconnect employees to a shared sense of purpose. 

6. Workshop a weekly all hands 

While hosting a weekly all-hands meeting might seem like an insurmountable undertaking, it can reap big rewards in terms of strengthening company culture and employee engagement. Gathering everyone together allows staff to reconnect over shared values and foster the sense of belonging we all seek! 

Through sharing updates, these meetings also allow colleagues to see how other departments fit into wider company goals and unite everyone together in shared aims. This approach can combat the silo effect that can easily creep in, especially when working remotely, and improve engagement as everyone sees how they fit into the bigger picture.

While our TravelPerk all hands are now a well-oiled machine, hosted in-person and online, they weren’t always this way. We started small and built gradually, taking employee feedback on what was working and what wasn’t. Over time they have become an invaluable resource, serving as a weekly reminder of our goals and appreciation for one another.

Company Travel Policy for Employees

7. Shake up your surroundings 

While catch-up meetings and strategy sessions can often be held with equal efficacy online, trying to problem-solve or generate fresh ideas can be excruciating! When confined to a small speaker window, we miss the nonverbal cues that build confidence, and before we know it, even the most extroverted employees don’t know what to say. 

Put simply, nothing can replace the creative energy generated when we meet in person! Colleagues can spark ideas off each other without the hassle of poor internet connections, and these in-person brainstorming sessions can double as vital opportunities for team building. 

But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you need a change of scene! In a TravelPerk survey, 34% of employees stated they had their most innovative ideas on work trips, a figure that jumped to 53% for participants between 16-24 years old

Over the last few years, more companies have harnessed the power of offsites, taking their creative teams away when they need to find innovative solutions. With Airbnb and other sites offering accommodation with corporate groups in mind, it has never been easier to find a venue that will supercharge your teams’ inspiration! 

8. Prioritize in-person retreats

While individual departments can benefit from breakthrough brainstorming sessions offsite, company-wide retreats have been gaining prominence in the new hybrid working world. Previously the reserve of digital nomads, more organizations are following the lead of small remote startups and treating their teams to an annual getaway. 

There are a whole host of reasons why these retreats are gaining popularity. Businesses realize that these events can serve several purposes, from a chance to deliver key updates to an attention-grabbing opportunity to attract new talent. But in a hybrid working context, they are an important tool for employee motivation and retention.

Imagine this scenario. Anna lives far from her company HQ and comes in monthly to work from the office for a few days. Annually the business hosts an AGM and a thank-you dinner at a local spot. Over time Anna finds the lack of interaction has left her with little emotional connection to her colleagues and feeling disengaged with company goals. 

Before long, Anna is scrolling through social media and sees pictures of an old school friend on a work retreat. It looks exciting, and inspiring, and like their company goes the extra mile to ensure employees’ job satisfaction. After seeing these images, it gets harder and harder to feel motivated, and Anna finds herself looking for a new job.  

With organizations facing fiercer competition for top candidates, investing in an annual or bi-annual retreat can help reconnect employees to shared goals while providing much-needed time for team bonding and celebration! Pick an awe-inspiring destination and avoid the temptation to stuff the schedule with meetings. Plan some laid-back activities and gift employees free time to explore, and they will come back refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges ahead! 

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